As another Volume of Arthur Newspaper comes to an end, it evokes a great deal of reflection after our first year as editors of a newspaper.
The source of the recent controversial discourse in the paper surrounds the restructuring of the colleges that occurred in the Spring of 2014. During that time, Arthur was not running, nor were students around to protest such a change.
Yumna and I had our work cut out for us in discovering how this change could have occurred without protest. The timing of this change occurring is part of that answer, as controversial changes being pushed through when school is not in session is not uncommon at Trent University.
Sure, there is something problematic with this statement, just as there was with discussing Barry Townshend’s departure from Trent University. There is also something problematic about having the power to change the nature of an academic establishment without that being called into question. The most problematic thing of all is stating that a change of this magnitude is a success, or that it isn’t that drastic of a change from the original model of the colleges, when everyone who has submitted feedback on the restructuring of the colleges has written otherwise.
What is so reminiscent of the Bonnie Patterson era here is that students were against the changes she authorized, but in the end it didn’t matter. The downtown colleges were sold and it changed Trent University forever…the effects still rippling in 2016, as we face higher enrolment and overcrowded residences. Patterson is still on Trent’s payroll, having since moved on with this “success” under her belt, and Arthur still echoes its criticisms over her after all this time, as it will with the restructuring of the colleges for years to come.
One of the greatest experiences we have had is reaching back into time and rediscovering the story of Peter Robinson’s closure by interviewing Ziy Sah, one of the Trent Eight, and trying to find photos to accompany one of the greatest university protests Canada has ever experienced.
Luckily, a past editor of Arthur, David Tough, was kind enough to share his archives with us. When I asked him why he decided to run for editor of Arthur, he mentioned that he thought Arthur should be more critical of administration than it was.
In criticizing what has happened to the colleges, it isn’t a personal attack on any one person. It’s the duty of this paper to remain critical of decisions such as this.
The fact remains that there is no proof of student input of how the decision to have college heads be administrative instead of academic is something anyone felt was necessary. Speaking with an old College Head, who for obvious reasons we will not name, they felt as though Trent was trying to fix something that was never broken to begin with.
The fact remains that this change was presented to Senate as “information only” indicates that this could never have been challenged, it had simply gone through. The fact is, that if you are an academic at any university right now, times are tough. Finding a permanent full- time position, or even a part-time position as one that existed for college heads, is extremely rare. The fact is, that these College Head positions would greatly benefit those professors.
With professors in a state where they are begging for scraps or contracts, it calls into question whether a position like AVP Students is ever reviewed? It should be, because it’s only fair considering the impact that position now has, with all this power.
The time has come for us to fight for our professors, because their plight is our future.
Professors are entering early retirement plans, and with their positions remaining unfilled, departments crumble before our eyes. This is not just an issue that Trent faces, but universities across Canada.
Due to our campus being so small, we feel the pinch more than a larger institution like the University of Toronto where professors get hired and leave routinely.
In this issue, the teaching awards are the feature. The ironic thing about awards such as these is that many of it’s recipients are no longer at Trent University for one reason or another. This is mostly due to the fact that professors would love to stay on at Trent, but are offered full time positions
elsewhere. One such excellent professor comes to mind by the name of Mark Dickinson.
Many of you remember Mark from the course he taught, Canada and the Land. It was a superb course, and he was a superb professor.
To me, the irony of presenting him with a Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching when he was not offered a full – time position at Trent was, well, indicative of what goes on at this institution.
The thought of someone like Mark Dickinson being a College Head, or someone like Dave Tough holding that position is truly a heartbreaking thought, because such a thing can’t happen anymore.
If that is something you as a student feel is unjust, and is something you strongly disagree with, then you have to fight for it.
Fight for your professors, because they are suffering right now. It’s a lot to ask, because students are facing their own struggles as well, but your voice is the one that counts.
Can the tide be turned? Can scholars be College Heads once more?
That is up to the student voice, because unfortunately, to undo something of this magnitude is sure to be complicated – but not impossible.